Interdependence Day

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[On July 4, 2019, there will be no Thursday evening practice at Crossings or Thursday morning practice in Takoma Park.However, there will be Thursday morning practice at Blueberry Gardens.]

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday, July 4th, the United States celebrates Independence Day, recognizing the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776. The declaration explained to the world why the thirteen American colonies could no longer remain subject and subservient to the King of England. The declaration begins:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The declaration was a revolutionary document, inspiring other colonies and countries to separate from or overthrow monarchs and adopt republican forms of government. And the signers of the declaration were brave men. They recognized that if the battle for independence was lost, they would most likely be imprisoned or killed.

And yet, neither when the declaration was signed or in later centuries, did the government of the United States fully recognize and implement programs to ensure “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thich Nhat Hanh often uses the analogy of the wave and water to explain that we are both individuals and, also, part of something greater. We are form and we are emptiness. We are independent, and we are also interdependent.

Interdependence is an underlying principle of the universe that deepens our understanding of every “thing” including sub-atomic particles, the creation of the “self,” family dynamics, economics, and astro-physics. In the tradition of mindfulness practice, interdependence, when understood and embodied, brings us a calm mind and a peaceful and loving heart. We become Bodhisattvas, working to relieve the suffering of ourselves and all living beings.

This Thursday, as the United States celebrate Independence day in a multitude of ways, I invite you to also explore and celebrate Interdependence.

Excerpts on Interdependence by Thich Nhat Hanh, ard Martin Luther King, Jr., are below.

Peace and joy to you,

Mitchell Ratner


by Thich Nhat Hanh from The Miracle Of Being Awake

The practitioner must strip away all the barriers in order to live as part of the universal life. A person is not some private entity travelling unaffected through time and space as if sealed off from the rest of the world by some thick shell. Living for 100 or for 100,000 lives sealed off like that, not only isn’t living, but it isn’t also possible. In our lives are present a multitude of phenomena, just as we ourselves are present in many different phenomena. We are life, and life is without limits: Perhaps one can say that we are only alive when we live the life of the world, and so live the sufferings and joys of others. The suffering of others is our own suffering, and the happiness of others is our own happiness. If our lives have no limits, the assembly of the five aggregates which makes up our self also has no limits. The impermanent character of the universe, the successes and failures of life can no longer manipulate us. Having seen the reality of interdependence and penetrated deeply into its reality, nothing can oppress you any longer.

The meditation on interdependence is to be practiced constantly. We might naturally devote time to meditate on it while sitting, but it must become an integral part of our involvement in all ordinary tasks. We must be able to see that the person in front of us as oneself and that we are that person. We must be able to see the process of inter-origination and interdependence of all events, both those which are happening and those which will happen.

by Martin Luther King, Jr., from Christmas Sermon On Peace, 24 December 1967.

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.